Three of our kids were on holiday, with enrolment for the next school year two weeks away. The fourth, who was working, had some days due for vacation. It was an opportune time for the family to get away together and bond. The only drawback was that the Mom couldn’t be able to join us if we went.
Ever gracious, the Mom let us go, and told us to enjoy ourselves.
Bohol has always been on our bucket list of places to visit, and we parents actually promised the kids that they should go there as a graduation gift. The youngest of the brood just finished elementary, and so it was just fitting that the graduation gift be finally realized, for all the graduations that the children have gone through.
So we boarded a plane for Tagbilaran, Bohol.
After touchdown in Tagbilaran, where we were picked up at the airport by a car, we immediately went to The Red Palm (Panglao Red Palmera Resort) at Doljo, Panglao Island, arriving there at around 10:30 AM.
The resort was recommended to us by a friend, Flora Maglana Rosales, a classmate from high school, who knew the owners of the resort, Stella and her husband Rodrigo Polentinos. The referral is another example of the age-old non-digital Filipino social networking.
It was through the resort that we made arrangements for the tours that we would thoroughly enjoy during our stay.
The Red Palm is situated just beside the sea, where guests may walk less than a hundred meters, under a grove of coconut trees, and find themselves on a white sand beach, almost to themselves, except for a few of the local fisherfolk who anchor their outrigger boats there.
As it was, immediately upon checking in, the kids went to the water. The water was shallow. In fact, one could walk a hundred meters into the sea and still find one’s head above the water. Being mountain people, the sea has always held a mystique for us, and one of the kids intimated that just relaxing at the beach would make her day. The kids also tried out the snorkel and flippers we brought with us, expectant as we were of the snorkeling site we were to visit on the third day of our trip.
The Red Palm staff asked us if we would rather have lunch on the beach, under the coconut trees, and we happily agreed. So it was that we dined on sumptuous “sinigang na hipon” and chicken fillet.
And went back into the water.
We arranged for a tour of the Panglao island for the afternoon, so the kids grudgingly got out of the water.
The first stop of the tour was Panglao Church, which boasts of a stone lookout tower built by the Spaniards centuries past. The church itself was built in the tradition of that age, as a fortress where the colonizers and the colonized would retreat when the bells of the lookout tower were rang to signal the coming of attackers.
The tower is now dilapidated, with the stonework threatening to crumble down, the reason why sightseers are not allowed to enter it, and for the chain link fence around the tower preventing the over-curious from reaching the tower base.
Behind the church and tower was the sea, presumably one of the sources of the threats that the tower sought to espy. Ever easily lured to see wonderful sights, we feasted on the vista until we had to leave for the next stop.
Nova Shell Museum
The Nova Shell Museum was definitely saturated with thousands of, you guessed it, shells! We took pleasure in listening to our guide’s monologue of the varieties of shells, their scientific and local names, where they were found and how deep their natural habitats were, and how much they cost. It was simply unfortunate that not one of us was into the hobby of collecting shells. Nevertheless, we were entertained, and regaled in the sheer dedication to collecting the shells and the endless fascination with them.
Since we come from Sagada in the Luzon highlands, a town that hosts many interwoven limestone caves with wondrous sights, we were doubly curious as to how Hinagdanan Cave, our next stop, would compare. Perhaps because of this natural bias, we were not amazed since Hinagdanan Cave was just some 50 meters deep, with few remarkable rock formations. Perhaps its most endearing feature was the pool at the bottom of the cave, a pool that fills up at high tide, and where we saw several people swimming. On one wall of the cave, somebody painted the image of a python, where tourists were encouraged to have their picture taken.
It was there in the cave where we bumped into fellow “native tourists” from the Luzon highlands, a chance meeting that made the Hinagdanan visit much more interesting as we discussed the odds of us meeting in Bohol. We were also told many times that it was in this cave that some scenes of “Ang Probinsiyano,” starring the late great film icon Fernando Poe, Jr. were filmed.
The souvenir shops near the entrance to the cave sold numerous goods and food treats that we browsed through in anticipation of the necessary souvenir shopping that we must do before we go home.
The Bohol Bee Farm
The Bohol Bee Farm was also a resort that offered rooms to guests, swimming pools, and a tour through their apiary. They also had specialty shops for honey-based products that offered a variety of different honey flavors according to the dominant nectar source of the bees that made them. Different fruit jams and jellies, bread, and exotic ice cream flavors were also sold there.
The shaded pool and another view of the sea added to our fascination.
We declined the offer of a tour of the apiary, since apiaries are not uncommon in the mountains.
By then it was nearing sunset, and we were hungry, even after the many food samplings that we went through. Alona Beach in Panglao is where many hotels were found, and it was where the nightlife in Panglao happens.
The eating places along the beach offered similar fare, also similarly priced. Diners were asked to buy displayed uncooked seafood, which were then prepared for their enjoyment. We thought the prices outrageous so near the sea, and we could not stay our hunger to wait while they prepared the food, so we opted for a la carte preparations on the menu.
As we were waiting for the food at our table, watching the many people enjoying a walk on the beach in the darkening light, we found out we were lucky to have chosen to eat at that very spot.
Near our table, there was a set-up for singers to entertain guests, and on that night a soloist with an acoustic guitar started singing folk songs, songs that are familiar to the people in the Luzon highlands. The music certainly made the dinner much more delectable. After we ate, we remained at our table listening to the music, and we thought perhaps we could request the singer to render one Bob Marley song, as reggae definitely spices up the beach atmosphere.
We made the request, and he sang not one, but several Bob Marley songs. We sang along with gusto, not minding that we sang louder during the refrains and choruses, applauding at the end of each song. Our enthusiasm infected the rest of the dining guests and passersby making the evening truly lively. The singer must have been very glad to have made us a lot happier.
Back at the Red Palm, the younger kids changed into swim clothes once again and got into the pool, staying there until they felt they had to take a much-needed rest.